As part of preparations for a large protest on Republic Day during which farmers would bring their tractors into the capital, farm unions are carrying out a mass recruitment drive in villages across Punjab. Over the last two days, thousands have signed up.
Farmer unions had earlier announced they would march to the capital on January 26 if their demands to repeal the farm laws are not met. Rajinder Singh, vice-president, Kirti Kisan Union Punjab, said: “We began the drive last Friday and it has received a good response. This is being done so that our movement is well organised . We will note down details of all volunteers who will travel to Singhu ahead of Republic Day. We are expecting lakhs of people from Punjab to turn up…”
The drive is being held in rural areas of the state, where union members are carrying out awareness programmes for the upcoming event. Meetings are also being held with local panchayats to garner support from locals.
Volunteers are likely to arrive in tractor trolleys for the protest, and a meeting will be held by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha to decide when they should arrive.
“There is an unofficial call for at least 1 lakh tractor trolleys, but that is our minimum estimate. The numbers will be way more since many are eager to join. Talks have been inconclusive and we have plans for Republic Day. A database of the new recruits will help us manage everything,” said Jatindar Singh Pal, an IT professional from New Zealand who has been volunteering in the security team since the protests started.
On the first day of the recruitment drive by the Kisan Kirti Union, more than 3,500 persons signed up. According to the unions, most volunteers are men aged between 18 and 25. Organisers claimed the number of registrations will increase after Makar Sankranti and Lohri.
Last week, farmers across protest sites had taken out a tractor march on the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways in preparation for the main event.
Events this week
To mark the festival of Lohri, farmers have called for burning copies of the bills on January 13. On the occasion of Mahila Kisan Diwas on January 18, women will be leading the movement at the tehsil, district and city level and at the protest sites. The day will mark the contribution of women in the field of agriculture, said farm leaders.
On January 20, the occasion of the Prakash Parv of Guru Gobind Singh, farmers said an oath will be taken to make this “struggle successful”.
Meanwhile, the Navnirman Kisan Sangathan is set to take out a ‘Delhi Chalo Yatra’ from Bhubaneswar to the capital’s borders between January 15 and 21. Hundreds of NAPM workers have already reached the Shahjahanpur border in Rajasthan, farmers said.
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